23 February – Memorial for St. Polycarp, bishop and martyr
St. Polycarp (69-155) was an associate of, converted by, and disciple of St. John the Apostle. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and he fought Gnosticism. He was the Bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), and was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.
The Asia Minor churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership and chose him representative to Pope Anicetus on the question of the date of the Easter celebration. Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has survived – the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi, Macedonia.
At 86, Polycarp was to be burned alive in a stadium in Smyrna, but the flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He is considered an Apostolic Father of the Church.
-Patron Saint Index
Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.
‘Wash, make yourselves clean.
Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.
‘Come now, let us talk this over,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
‘If you are willing to obey,
you shall eat the good things of the earth.
But if you persist in rebellion,
the sword shall eat you instead.’
Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’
The greatest among you must be your servant
Leadership is probably something which we encounter daily in our lives. This can take place in the form of the superior at the workplace, the co-ordinator in our parishes or perhaps even the people who help arrange the logistics in a room. The readings of today allow us to discover what it takes to be a believer of Christ and the great difficulties which we face long the entire process.
Prophet Isaiah in the first reading provides us with a quick list of what we are expected to do. This includes to help the oppressed and being just to the orphan. Some people may say that these issues are not so readily available to be found in our society of today. This could provide an opportune moment for us to find people who are suffering from this issue in a metaphorical way such as those who are not loved and perhaps challenged by the imbalances in the society of today. The season of Lent allows us to the time to look out for these people who are disadvantaged and who perhaps are in need of our help. Yet in all of these issues, we need to realise that finding out the motivation behind the individual’s actions could perhaps be the end goal of what we need to do.
As Christians, we need to remember that we need to see the image of God in the all the people around us. This may seem quite impossible especially among the people whom we treat as our enemies. Yet, leadership requires us to go beyond what we are comfortable and to demonstrate charity towards all. Only in this situation can we demonstrate the type of leadership which Jesus asks of us in the Gospel of today. Leadership within Christianity is one of love towards the people whom we encounter regardless of the nature of the people.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer – Dear Father, we pray for the understanding to show our love to the people who matter to us.
Thanksgiving – We give thanks for all who accept us for who we are, despite our flaws